Hands-on Gear Review

Brooks Distance Review

A good shirt that isn’t nearly as comfortable as others we tried.
By: Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 13, 2018
Price:  $34 List  |  $34.00 at REI
Pros:  Dries fairly quickly, versatile for any outdoor sport, affordable
Cons:  Itchy and irritating seams, few reflectors
Manufacturer:   Brooks
57
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 10
  • Comfort - 35% 4
  • Breathability - 20% 5
  • Drying Speed - 15% 8
  • Versatility - 15% 9
  • Features - 15% 5
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Our Verdict

The Brooks Distance is a simple, affordable, and form-fitting running shirt that is made of a blend of 85% polyester and 15% spandex fibers. Surprisingly, the fabric has a smooth, cottony feel that is soft and lightweight. Although we feel as if it is versatile for a variety of outdoor activities, and found that it dries out rather quickly, this was one of the lower scoring shirts in this review. Compared to the competition, it simply wasn't that comfortable, with abrasive sewn seams in particular that rubbed and caused itchy irritation. While this shirt presents a decent value, it wasn't by any means one of our favorites for running.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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The Brooks Distance is a very simple shirt that comes with a very reasonable price tag. It is made with a single fabric weave that is a blend of 85% polyester and 15% spandex. With this much stretchy spandex in the mix, we were surprised that this was one of the least stretchy shirts in this review, and also surprised that the feel of the material was far more like cotton than the smooth, slippery feel of the other 100% polyester shirts. This shirt has no mesh panels to aid in direct air transfer and evaporation, although it does come in a two-toned color scheme, with the highlight on the upper shoulders. This was a shirt we wanted to love, but the thread and stitching used on every seam rubbed us and itched to the point where we couldn't enjoy running in it. Thus, it was one of the lowest scorers in this review.

Performance Comparison


The Distance features a soft fabric that feels a lot like cotton but unfortunately suffers from uncomfortably rubbing seams. Here cruising the downhill out of the canyon in Death Valley.
The Distance features a soft fabric that feels a lot like cotton but unfortunately suffers from uncomfortably rubbing seams. Here cruising the downhill out of the canyon in Death Valley.

Comfort


When assessing for comfort, we looked particularly at a shirt's fit, fabric, and seam sewing before making our judgments. Like many of the online customer reviews allude to, this shirt fits on the small side. For us, it worked and was very athletic, despite the fact that Brooks calls it a "relaxed fit." You may consider sizing up.

The Distance fits pretty slim  but we preferred this style of fit to more baggy options when running. It is not so slim as to feel tight or impede movement.
The Distance fits pretty slim, but we preferred this style of fit to more baggy options when running. It is not so slim as to feel tight or impede movement.

The fabric, despite being a synthetic blend, feels like cotton, a natural fiber. We loved how much this fabric reminded us of a typical t-shirt, instead of a high-tech piece of outerwear. However, we could only give it 4 out of 10 points for comfort because of the incredible abrasiveness of the seams. Despite being flat locked and low profile, the seams are very noticeable and don't feel good against the skin. Those around the armpits, back of the neck, and back of the shoulders, in particular, rubbed and annoyed us. In many ways, this was the same phenomenon we encountered with the Salomon Agile SS Tee, and this shirt was nowhere close to as comfortable as our Best Overall running shirt, the Patagonia Windchaser. We gave it 4 out of 10 points, the lowest score.

While these seams are sewn with a flat lock style  the stitching and thread is very abrasive and uncomfortable against the skin. It seems to rub even when you're not moving  and made this the least comfortable shirt in this review.
While these seams are sewn with a flat lock style, the stitching and thread is very abrasive and uncomfortable against the skin. It seems to rub even when you're not moving, and made this the least comfortable shirt in this review.

Breathability


The soft, cotton-esque fabric was fairly tightly woven, and there were no mesh paneling anywhere on this shirt to increase the amount of direct airflow to aid in evaporation. We found it to be mildly harder to force air through than the similarly tight weave of the Arc'teryx Motus Crew, but it was still more breathable than the double layered mesh of the Russell Athletic Dri-Power Core Performance. Regardless, this felt like one of the least breathable shirts we tested, and we gave it 5 points.

Drying Speed


Weighing in at 4.5 ounces, this shirt was roughly in the middle of the spectrum when it came to weight. It outperformed this ranking when accounting for drying time, as it scored up there near the top with the Smartwool PhD Ultra Light and Motus Crew for third best drying time. With more fabric, it should have been capable of holding more water trapped between its fibers, thereby slowing down the drying speed, but this proved to not be the case. We gave it 8 out of 10 points.

Versatility


Despite not being super comfortable, we can't argue with the fact that this shirt is versatile enough to be used in nearly any outdoor setting. Its trim, small fit means that it is a great choice for layering over during colder times, and it also looks enough like a normal shirt to enable it to be worn around town if need be. With no mesh paneling to get abused by wear and tear, this shirt makes for a pretty good choice while wearing a pack as well. The result is that we graded it up there with our Top Pick for Use as a Base Layer, the Arc'teryx Motus Crew, and gave it 9 out of 10 points for versatility.

Had to stop to scramble up that last dry waterfall. The Distance shirt is quite versatile for a variety of uses besides just running.
Had to stop to scramble up that last dry waterfall. The Distance shirt is quite versatile for a variety of uses besides just running.

Features


This shirt has relatively few features. It does have a decently sewn sweatband on the back of the neck, like most shirts in this review, and also includes DriLayer Burst technology in its fabric.

This little logo on the upper left shoulder is the only reflector to be found on the Brooks Distance  and it points more up than forward or to the side.
This little logo on the upper left shoulder is the only reflector to be found on the Brooks Distance, and it points more up than forward or to the side.

We couldn't discover what this means or how it works but found that like most of the other odor control technologies, it only worked so-so, and didn't completely remove post workout stink. The shirt only has one reflector, on the top of the left shoulder, where it points straight up, and isn't very useful for alerting drivers to your presence. With few, poorly thought out features, we awarded it 5 points, tied with the Under Armour UA Tech and Salomon Agile SS Tee as the lowest scorers for features.

This shirt doesn't have a ton of features  but it does have a nice sweat band sewn in the collar. It also features UPF protection  as well as odor control.
This shirt doesn't have a ton of features, but it does have a nice sweat band sewn in the collar. It also features UPF protection, as well as odor control.

Best Applications


This shirt rubbed us and scratched too much to be comfortable for running in. If you don't have this problem, then it should make for a solid running shirt and is also durable enough to be used for backpacking, hiking, skiing, or any other outdoor sport. It's also a solid choice for the gym, or for simply wearing around.

Due to its comfort issues  we enjoyed this shirt more for short runs where we weren't required to wear a vest. It works well as a hiking shirt  though  and even looks normal enough to simply wear as a t-shirt.
Due to its comfort issues, we enjoyed this shirt more for short runs where we weren't required to wear a vest. It works well as a hiking shirt, though, and even looks normal enough to simply wear as a t-shirt.

Value


This shirt retails for $34, making it one of the more affordable options in this review. Unfortunately, we didn't enjoy wearing it too much, so don't think its worth the money. If you are looking for an affordable running shirt, check out our Best Bang for the Buck winner, the Under Armour UA Tech.

Taking the ridgeline detour on a run in Death Valley National Park while wearing the Distance shirt.
Taking the ridgeline detour on a run in Death Valley National Park while wearing the Distance shirt.

Conclusion


The Brooks Distance is an affordable, quick drying, and fairly versatile running shirt. While these qualities are good to have, they don't matter too much if details such as the seam sewing aren't up to the comfort standard set by other shirts. While running in particular, but even while wearing it as we write this, the threads in the seams are rubbing us to the point of annoyance, so we don't really enjoy wearing this shirt, and it wouldn't be our top recommendation.

Andy Wellman

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Most recent review: April 13, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
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  • 4
  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 100%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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